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Famine in Somalia Kills 5 Percent of Total Population

CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images(MOGADISHU, Somalia) -- The drought and famine in Somalia killed 5 percent of the nation’s total population, and 10 percent of all children under 5-years-old, according to the first in-depth report on the famine released Thursday.

The study, conducted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit for Somalia (FSNAU) and the USAID-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), was funded by the United States and British governments. It tracked the drought and accompanying famine from October 2010 to April 2012.

About 258,000 Somalis died from famine. Roughly half, 133,000 were under 5-years old. Outside of the capital of Mogadishu, young children fared even worse, with a full 18 percent falling victim to famine.

Between May and August of 2011 when the famine was at its worst, mortality peaked at about 30,000 excess deaths per month.

The famine was official declared by the UN in July of 2011. The year before was the driest the eastern Horn of Africa had seen in 60 years, leading to poor cereal crops, livestock deaths, and a drop in labor demand and household income. This was made worse by a decreased level of humanitarian assistance and food aid compared to previous years.

The deaths measured by the study are only those caused by famine-related causes, not counting deaths due to conflict or other circumstances. According to the report there were an additional 290,000 deaths not directly caused by famine during the 29 month-long period examined in the study. This adds up to a total of more than half a million deaths over 29 months.

Chris Hillbruner, Decision Support Advisor for FEWS NET, said what occurred in Somalia was “one of the worst famines in the last 25 years.”

“With the expertise of two renowned institutions, we now have a picture of the true enormity of this human tragedy,’’ said Mark Smulders, Senior Economist for FAO.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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